The Seoul High Court allowed the termination of life-sustaining treatment for a 76-year-old woman who has been brain-dead for a year. However, the termination cannot be carried out due to a pending appeal by the hospital caring for her.
The high court said in a ruling "that the termination of life-sustaining treatments is feasible considering all citizens' rights to dignity under the constitution and self-determination." The high court warned, however, against the abuse of the ruling in other cases. "Human life is sublime and it must be treated with utmost care in any circumstances," the high court said.
The ruling will only apply when a patient has no chance of recovery and medical treatment is limited to maintaining his or her brain-dead state. The hospital plans to take the case to the Supreme Court. Hospital authorities noted that in 2004 doctors were charged with aiding murder after they removed life support systems from a brain-dead patient on a request from relatives.
The woman in the present case was declared brain-dead in February last year after she sustained brain damage and fell into a coma while undergoing a lung examination. Three months later her children filed a court petition after the hospital rejected their request that she be allowed to die in peace and with dignity. The family claimed that extending life using medical devices would prolong her "painful and meaningless" existence.